2022 CLIMATE ACTION UPDATE
The following article by Alan Northcutt was published in the Waco Tribune-Herald on 2/5/2022
Ocean heat content, the purest measure of our warming planet, increases with the energy equivalent of four Hiroshima-size atomic bombs detonated every second. In 2021, that heat content was the largest ever recorded. Closer to home, the U.S. Drought Monitor of Jan. 27, revealed McLennan County at 2/3 severe drought, and 1/3 extreme drought. The Tribune-Herald reported struggling winter grain crops, Lake Waco down 3 feet, and increased wildfire threat.
Wacoans are clearly searching for solutions to this climate crisis. 82% support funding of research into renewable energy, according to the Yale Climate Opinion Map of 2020. For this new year, we review some of the most important climate solutions individuals may undertake.
Politics. The enormous task of reaching net zero emissions by 2050 requires policy initiatives at every level of government—from city councils to the Paris Agreement. Voting at every opportunity for candidates who recognize climate science, and who use their power for climate-preserving policies is vital. Just as important is communicating your views to these officials while they are in office. In Waco, a message to one’s councilperson endorsing the switch to EVs and to renewable energy would be invaluable (Waco-texas.com/council) .
Transportation. Walking, biking, and using mass transit are low-carbon, exercise rich means of mobility. But in Waco, and most of this gigantic state, cars are a necessity. Since the transportation sector is the number one source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S., driving an electric vehicle (EV) is a superb way to lighten one’s carbon footprint. In Texas in 2022, nearly 100 models, including two pickup trucks will be available, with prices starting around $20,000 (with tax credit), comfortable ranges, and expanding charging networks.
The current tax credit of $7500 is subject to change with pending legislation, and could increase to $12,500. Driving an EV now is a joy, not a sacrifice, and a test drive is mandatory, if one is concerned about the climate crisis.
Electricity purchase. The production of electricity is the second largest source of GHG emissions in the U.S. Most Waco-area utility companies offer a 100% renewable plan that is competitively priced. Even “Texas Power Switch,” which focuses on cost savings, advertises an all-renewable option. When selecting a plan, an important caveat is to always review the EFL (Electricity Facts Label) to confirm that the “Renewable Content” is actually 100%. Green Mountain Energy offers 100% renewable plans only, and is highly respected in the green electricity sector.
Renewable energy. Since response to the climate crisis requires rapid proliferation of clean renewable energy facilities, residential or business installation of solar or wind power is a potent contribution. Through 2022, the 26% federal tax credit is applicable, and some companies provide installment payment plans. Solar photovoltaic systems are profitable in the long term, and in Texas, they increase home resale value an average of $24,000.
The City of Waco can contribute by prioritizing permitting of renewables, and decreasing excessive turnaround time.
Diet. The peer-reviewed literature is unequivocal that the less meat and dairy in the diet, the fewer associated carbon emissions. Thus, a vegan diet is best for the planet, followed by a vegetarian routine. and by Meatless Mondays. But with a plethora of plant-based meat substitutes available—from eggs to milk to fish—veganism does not require flavor sacrifice. And cruelty-free meat derived from cultured cells is now sold in Singapore, and all meat is projected to be obtained from such culture by 2040. Problem solved!
Homes. The key principle to follow when building a new home is the simple phrase “Electrify Everything.” Thus, gas lines are unnecessary, as the home has an electric heat pump for climate control, electric water heater, an electric stove, and the most energy efficient appliances available. The home should include rooftop solar or solar ready wiring, and a 240V power outline in the garage for EV charging. Finally, the climate control system and hot water heater should include smart thermostats that are responsive to signals from the grid. In existing homes, transition to these elements of electrification should be performed as soon as financially comfortable. (Switching to an electric stove in my home is at the top of my to do list).
Recycling. “Refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, recycle” was the mantra of the 20th century. These actions certainly benefit the environment in many ways, including the smaller carbon footprint of an object created from recycled materials rather than from virgin materials. But it’s important to dispel the misconception that recycling alone will end the climate crisis—more direct steps to slash GHG emissions are mandatory.
Divestment. To date, some 1500 faith organizations, universities, pension funds, and governments have removed $39 trillion from fossil fuel stocks and bonds. The goal is to stigmatize the industry, as divestment successfully accomplished against South African apartheid , and the tobacco and gambling industries. The fossil fuel industry absolutely deserves to be stigmatized: it is committed to extracting 100% of known reserves while it understands that only 30% can be extracted without climate catastrophe. To undertake divestment, please consult your certified financial planner for guidance.
Climart. The term “climart” has been used for works of art that address our climate emergency. Waco Friends of the Climate is sponsoring the free, virtual community-wide 5th Annual Climate Crisis Art Exhibit, with 110 artworks by adults and students of all ages. Visitors may enjoy and be inspired by the art, vote for their favorite pieces, become eligible for door prizes, and review exceptional winners from previous shows. www.climatecrisisartexhibit.org
The challenge of the climate crisis has been termed “World War 0.” As in the second world war (WWII), the world’s manufacturing capacity will need to be rapidly redirected—to producing wind turbines, solar panels, and batteries. The task is enormous, and our success is uncertain—parallel again to WWII. Finally, the 0 represents the goal of net zero emissions by 2050. With every fraction of a degree of warming prevented, lives will be saved. Hence, every climate solution attempted, large or small, is important, and is welcomed.